Even with my condition, I considered myself to be an ordinary housewife. I ran errands, cooked, cleaned, and made sure everything ran smoothly. I’m a home-maker and I have no problem with that. I led a run-of-the-mill life and actually preferred the comfort and predictability my life entailed. There was one thing about me that separated myself from other ordinary people. I have a rare condition called prosopagnosia that has left me unable to differentiate facial features.
I feel like I have to explain this before I can continue on with my story to let you know how it feels to live with prosopagnosia. People don’t call it face blindness without a reason. Imagine being unable to differentiate your significant other from a stranger at a glance. The only way I can identify someone is by their voice and mannerisms. To be honest, that method is not foolproof and every now and then, I find myself talking to someone I don’t know on the street or supermarket, mistaking them for a friend or family member. Of course, you don’t need to comprehend what it’s like to be in my shoes to understand why I can no longer stand the idea of interacting with another person.
It all started a month ago when I began getting little letters in the mail. They started off as innocuous messages tucked into blank envelopes: “Thinking of you.”, “You looked beautiful today.”, “Your smile brightens up my day.”, and other notes like that. I thought it was my husband at first. He was always a bit shy. I personally think that he dealt with low self-esteem his entire life and was a bit hesitant to put himself out there. He was so nervous that when he asked for my hand in marriage I almost had to finish his sentences for him so he could get the proposal out there. I figured that these little notes placed in the mailbox were his way of expressing his affections without putting himself out there.
I waited for him to comment on the notes he was leaving me, but after a while it became apparent that he had nothing to do with them. I finally asked him about it and he had no clue that I was even receiving messages. I was personally a little worried about it. Since there was no return address that meant the mailman wasn’t the one that was bringing them. I didn’t like the fact that there was someone leaving messages in my mailbox. The whole situation made me a little bit uneasy.
My husband, Adam Dufresne, was fairly nonchalant about all of it. He reasoned that it was probably some misguided teenager who was smitten with me. He explained that I had that effect on most people. I couldn’t tell you if I am pretty or not, but it was my husband’s little affirmations that made me feel beautiful. For all his nervousness and shyness sometimes he would say something that would sweep me right off my feet. He told me to just ignore the notes and he would eventually get the message and take an interest in a girl his own age.
I followed his advice and left the little white envelopes unopened in the mailbox. I pushed them to the back of the mailbox and collected the regular mail. I did that for a week or so until I opened the mailbox one day to find it filled to the brim with little white envelopes. I was more annoyed than anything. I took them inside and began to throw them away.
My curiosity got the better of me and I started to read a few. I don’t know why if I had to hazard a guess, I would say that maybe I was a little lonely. Adam worked from seven in the morning to six at night and I had a few friends, but no one real close I could confide in. We were shopping friends, acquaintances that I knew from my errands. The problem was identifying them and striking up conversations with my condition made it hard to build friendships. The notes were all mostly innocent words like: “You’re so nice.”, “I love what you’ve done with your hair.”, and other niceties that almost anyone could get away with saying in a conversation. It wasn’t until I read, “Why don’t you answer me?” that I became genuinely concerned.
A few days later, the messages began to get more sensual. Things like: “Your body is a shrine that I would love to worship”, “Your sun-kissed hair sets my heart aflame with desire”, “Nice tits”. Not all of them were so poetic. It wasn’t until I received one that praised the tattoo I had on my hip that I finally broke down and told my husband how bad the letters had gotten. I had a butterfly tattoo (I know, so cliché.) on my lower hip, so low in fact that I had to be naked to see it. He finally agreed with me and we called the police that day.
The police really couldn’t do anything about our situation. The officer was even a little nonplussed as to why he had been called. It wasn’t until I told him about the note mentioning my well-hidden tattoo that he became invested. He confessed that they couldn’t devote any police officers to stake out our house as they currently had their hands full with some group of idiots calling themselves the "Pluto gang" that were running around performing acts of petty vandalism and a few instances of violence. He did confide that if we could manage to capture him on film so we could identify him then we could get a restraining order filed against my stalker.
The police officer left and we began to formulate plans as to how we were going to record my love-struck stalker on video. We set up a laptop inside the house facing the mailbox and tried to use the camera to record him. The video was such bad quality that Adam couldn’t even tell if it was a man or woman out there. I, of course would be useless in identifying him on account of my prosopagnosia. The message he left was so vulgar that I tore it to pieces and washed them down the sink before my husband could read it.
Adam had finally had enough. He decided that he had to threaten my admirer. I should have taken offense to him acting in such a primal manner, but a little part of me was glad that the usually so reserved Adam was expressing himself so forcefully. He decided that his best option was to lie in wait on the porch and catch my secret admirer when he arrived to leave another sordid message in my mailbox. Adam put his plan into effect the next night.
I was concerned that Adam might get hurt, so I stayed up with him. I watched nervously from the window as he waited for my stalker to appear. Around three in the morning, I spied someone emerging into the streetlights a few houses away. He approached our house warily. He appeared to be of average build. He gave furtive movements, afraid to be spotted. I can’t describe him more than that. My husband waited until he opened the mailbox and then he sprinted from his hiding spot on the porch towards him. He waved his baseball bat threateningly at the man who took off. My husband gave chase and the last I saw of them; they were vanishing in the darkness where the streetlights failed to provide illumination.
My husband returned fifteen minutes later out of breath. It took a few minutes of looking at him before he realized the problem and puffed, “It’s me, Olivia. I’m Adam Dufresne.” He sucked down a few deep breaths before he huffed, “He got away. Think I scared him off for good.” He was sweaty, but that didn’t stop me from wrapping my arms around him and holding him tightly. He had just risked his life for me. My stalker could have killed him. He stroked my hair and whispered, “I’d do anything to protect you.” As I was wrapped in his warm, albeit moist embrace, I knew those words to be true.
A few days passed without any notes in the mailbox and life was beginning to return to normal. It wasn't until one morning when I was having a cup of coffee on my porch that it happened. I saw a man was walking down the street. At first I thought it was just someone taking their dog out for a walk, but he stopped in front of my mailbox and slipped something inside before walking away with his dog. I waited fifteen minutes before I could gather up the courage to approach the mail and retrieve the letter. With shaking hands I opened the envelope and read, “Your husband is so angry. You should leave him. I can treat you right. I can make you c-” I crushed the paper in my hands and went inside. Once inside, I broke down and cried.
When Adam came home, I broke down and wept in his arms for an hour. He held me and waited for me to tell him what happened. He was furious. We had a big fight over it. I wanted to go to the police and try to get them involved and he wanted to catch the man himself. In one of the more heated moments of the argument, he shouted, “You couldn’t even pick him out of a line-up if you wanted to!” I broke into a fresh set of tears and he apologized. Later that night, I went to bed alone while he waited on the porch for my stalker to come back.
That happened for the next few days. I would go to bed alone and my husband would stay up all night waiting for my stalker to appear on the porch. I could tell it was taking a toll on him. He moved around as if in a daze and I knew that fatigue was getting to him. I started to worry that if he didn’t drive off the stalker, my husband was going to go mad from sleep deprivation. I finally cracked and went to the police. The officer was understanding, but still couldn’t do anything for our situation. It took me half the conversation to realize I was talking to the same officer who had made the house call. Sometimes it is hard to tell people in uniforms apart.
I returned to the house to find my husband home early. I walked into the kitchen and saw Adam checking our voice mail. He had just deleted all the messages as I came in. When he saw me, he froze as if startled by my appearance. I asked him, “Why are you home early?”
There was a suspicious pause as if he was not telling me the whole truth before he answered, “I was worried about you. I was worried what would happen if he had come back while I was gone.”
That night we made love for the first time since the letters started appearing. I don’t want to get into too sordid details, but it was just so different that it stuck out in my mind. Usually our love-making is reserved, patient, and methodical. Hell, typically the lights are off and we're under the covers. It is satisfying. This time he was unrestrained. We made love passionately and with such urgency as if it was the end of the world. I think it had something to do with the fact that we almost always had sex like clockwork. Every Saturday night we would make love. This was unplanned and filled with exigency. There was something bestial about Adam that night. I liked it.
In the afterglow, he held me tightly and we drifted off like that. I awoke that morning to find my husband still in bed. I looked at the clock. Shit! It was ten o’clock on a Friday and Adam was late for work. I shook him awake and told him he was late. He told me he had called in sick and wanted to spend the day with me. It was an odd thing for him to do since I don’t think I had ever seen him take a day off of work unless he was physically unable to get into the office. It was completely unexpected occurrence, but a welcome event nonetheless.
Something was a little bit off about Adam. He was a bit more clingy than usual. He drifted about the house almost always within a room’s distance to me. He was more affectionate than usual. He nuzzled the nape of my neck. The feeling of his stubble prickling my skin was such an unknown sensation. He planted kisses and caught me up in a few embraces. He even playfully swatted my behind a few times. The shy and hesitant Adam was a thing of the past.
I expected this behavior to wane over the weekend, but it actually became more prevalent. He whispered sweet nothings in my ears, he massaged my shoulders, and even offered to rub my feet. I was enjoying some of the perks of this newly affectionate Adam, but some dark sneaking suspicion was festering in the back of my mind. By the time Monday came around, I was almost excited to send him to work. I was beginning to feel claustrophobic with the amount of affection Adam was smothering me with.
I practically had to force Adam out the door to work. He wanted to take another sick day to spend more time with me. To tell you the truth, I was a little exasperated. It is hard to run errands and keep the house clean with someone tagging along and sweetly crooning nothings in your ears and tracing your neckline with kisses every fifteen minutes. He reluctantly left and I went about with my day. I was glad when the mail arrived and there wasn’t another plain white envelope with a sordid message inside, but still there was that voice in the back of my head whispering that I was missing something from the larger picture.
That night I had a terrible lucid nightmare. I dreamt I was in our bed when my cell rang. I reached over Adam’s sleeping prone form and grabbed the cell and answered it. The voice sent chills down my neck. The voice was angry and snarled, “Why didn’t you pick me up from the airport? I had to get a cab home! Didn’t you get my message that I would be gone all weekend for a work trip? Would you mind letting me in?” The sleeping man rolled over and faced me. I couldn’t recognize his face due to my prosopagnosia, but I knew that whoever was in my bed was not my husband.
The man who was sleeping next to me gave a deep laugh and I saw that he was clutching a white envelope in his hands. He lunged towards me and I woke up with a scream in my throat. It took fifteen minutes to convince Adam that it was all a nightmare and nothing to be worried about. I didn’t sleep at all the rest of the night. I had never had such an odd and frightening dream in my life.
My husband showed some hesitation to leave for work, but once again, I managed to convince him to leave. I hoped silently to myself that this wasn’t going to become a daily occurrence for us. I continued with the slew of chores I had accumulated around the house. The mail arrived and I went out to retrieve it. There was no new envelope. I think my stalker had finally learned his lesson. I decided that we had to celebrate today.
I decided that I would surprise Adam with a nice stir-fry for dinner tonight. I had a little garden in the back of the house where I could get some fresh vegetables. I donned my gardener’s gloves and went out back to select some fresh vegetables to use in the stir-fry. I had some meat in the fridge that I could use to spice up the meal. It was Adam’s favorite. It was there in the backyard where I found the body buried amongst the weeds and brush.
I didn’t see the corpse at first; rather I smelled an odd and nauseating odor in the air. At first I thought it was the compost we dumped in the garden breaking down and decomposing. It wasn’t until it became overwhelming and I couldn’t focus on picking vegetables that I decided to follow it and track it down. I had assumed it was a dead deer or something, but when I trailed the scent to the brush on the edge of our yard I instead found the corpse of a man.
Looking back, I can’t say what I did with one-hundred percent clarity, but I do remember gagging and almost getting sick. I was about to call the police and tell them about the corpse when a horrible thought forced its way into the forefront of my mind. How did he die? I managed a quick glance at the body and knew that he had been murdered because his skull was cracked open. It was then that all the horrible thoughts clicked into place. The body was a few days dead, he had suffered a violent death, my husband’s recent surge in affection, the man that lied before me was my husband. Even with my prosopagnosia, I knew it was Adam Dufresne.
I was startled out of this horrible revelation by his car pulling into the driveway. I bolted towards the house, hoping to reach the phone and call the police before he could get inside, but as I entered; I found him waiting for me by the door. The man leaned forward and planted a kiss on my cheek before asking, “How was your day?” My skin crawled, but I tried to keep my composure. I would have to wait with this imposter who was wearing my husband’s clothes, driving his car, and living his life. I had to wait until I could have enough time to call the police. I would have to play along with his sick game.
I listened patiently to him tell me about his day, but the words were hollow and false. He was full of fallacies. His emotions were ersatz. He was a master manipulator who had killed and replaced my husband. It wasn’t until he asked about what we were having for dinner that I was able to come to my senses and began to make the stir-fry. The situation got worse as time passed. Now I would have to have dinner with my stalker and bide my time until I could call the police.
I cut up the vegetables and threw them in the skillet with some cooking oil. I let them soak up the oil for a bit before cranking up the heat. I was battling with the urge to throw up the entire time. This monster had murdered my husband, donned his clothes, and fooled me into thinking it was him. All the stolen kisses, the unwanted hugs, the unbidden sweet nothings he had whispered into my ear sent shivers up my spine and roiled my stomach.
I thought about turning the knife on him and fending him off while I phoned the police, but I wasn’t hopeful about making it out of the house alive if I tried that. He had already killed Adam. I needed to "play house" with this imposter or I would find myself in the weeds and brush like my husband. My best bet was to continue with my stalker’s sick fantasy of a happy relationship. My mind kept flashing back to the body in the backyard. I wanted nothing more than to cry.
I stirred the vegetables and meat up. They hissed and spattered hot oil in the cast-iron skillet. The meal was just about done and the imposter was drawn to the stove-eye by the smell. It wasn’t until he wrapped his arms around me, cupping me, and pressed himself against my body that I lost it. The images of him in my bed, making love to me seared and hissed in my brain. The smell of his sweat and the feeling of his hot breath puffing against my neck. Like my imposter had lost control in the act of raping me; I lost control in the act of retaliating against him.
I seized the cast-iron skillet with my bare hand. There was a horrible hissing sound, but I didn’t feel the pain. I whirled around and swung the skillet. It connected with the impostor’s face and sent hot oil and stir-fry flying everywhere. He stumbled back and I closed the gap between us. He was doubled-forward clutching at his face and trying to come to terms with what was happening. I swung the skillet down and it made a sickening crack as it connected with his face. He dropped to the ground and writhed in pain, but I was not done with the impostor.
I straddled my stalker as he tried to crawl away. I raised the blazing hot skillet above my head and brought it down on the back of his head a few more times. The last time, his head gave a sickening squelch as the skillet crashed down on him. He no longer moaned or moved. He was dead. The skillet slipped out of my hands and clanged on the tile. I became aware of the burning sensation in my hand. The skin of my palm was bubbling and molting. I got off of the corpse and called the police.
The police arrived fifteen minutes later. They examined the body and began to question me in the front room so the smell of burning flesh mixed with stir-fry didn’t upset them. I told them the entire story and when I mentioned the corpse in the backyard, the officer sent his rookie partner back there while he continued to get my statement. I told them how my stalker had left increasingly disturbing messages in my mailbox and had probably murdered my husband while I was out. He then probably tried to hide the body before going inside and dressing himself in my husband’s clothes. When I uncovered the body I understood what had happened.
The rookie returned and whispered something to the officer. This must have been his first time investigating a murder because he whispered too loud to conceal the information. I didn’t catch all the words he spoke to his partner, but I did overhear enough. I overheard too much. I caught only a few words like: “Unidentified,” “doesn’t match,” “husband.” The pieces clicked. Adam’s words echoed in my head, “I’d do anything to protect you.”
My mind raced. Would you kill for me Adam? What would you do after realizing you murdered a man who was stalking and harassing your wife and would probably be arrested? Would you flee? Would you try to make the most out of your time with your wife before the inevitable end came? My mind spit out fragments of thoughts: The clingy attitude, the desire to spend all his time with me, the frantic love-making, the skillet connecting with a sickening squelch, the scalding oil splashing on my arms and his face. A haunting sound filled the house and the officers looked startled. It took me a second to realize that the sound was coming from me. They took me into the station wailing like a banshee.
I’d do anything to protect you. Those words echo in my head. They are the first thing I hear when I wake up and the last thing as I rest my head on the pillow. I’d do anything to protect you. I was acquitted due to my face-blindness, which rendered me incapable of distinguishing the body in my backyard as that of my stalker and not my husband. I’d do anything to protect you. My husband had murdered my stalker to protect me and I had repaid him by smashing in his head with a skillet. I’d do anything to protect you.
I reverted my name to Olivia Sacks and moved away, but the memories still haunt me. I wish they had arrested me. I wished they had locked me up with a life sentence. I wish I had died, but that’s not in the cards for me. I am now a recluse of sorts. I live alone and I shun all forms of contact with people. You want to know why I can’t stand the thought of interacting with another person? It is because I don’t know them from Adam. It's always the same with every single person I see. They all remind me of him and his words spoken on that late night: "I’d do anything to protect you."
Written by EmpyrealInvective